Failed Attempts at Rationalizing Indecision


Conversations with others often serve as a means of communing with ourselves. This is especially true when entertaining indecision and failure. Here are a few fictional cases of mistaken indemnity:

Attempt 1: The Over-Intellectualized Over Rationalization

Dear Boss,

I am writing to inform you that I've decided to forsake my natural ability and right to make decisions, and instead opt to relegate myself to the caustic whimsy of averted personal commitment and unyielding allegiance to the capricious nature of immediate needs.

I fully understand that, based on past performance, your expectations of my overall abilities (as well as any future successes) are quite high. For this, I cannot blame you, nor am I able to offer any alternately viable conclusion. Instead, I must relate the sudden and innate truth of the matter: the rote practice of daily decision making has become far too taxing, and ultimately, the return on such an investment has quickly proven itself less than rewarding. As such, I've stumbled upon — and subsequently settled into — a ritualistic practice of evaded rationalism and indefinitely postponed choices.

While this decision of indecision will undoubtedly manifest itself in acutely negative and blatantly measurable effects on my ability to drive projects forward and achieve any manner of results (let alone positive ones), I have the greatest confidence that you will ultimately understand my rationale, and empathize with the hardships that led me to this drastic step. Your compassion notwithstanding, I absolutely, unfailingly, without any malingering doubt and with giddy anticipation, expect your support of this new phase of my professional career, as well as your inevitable penchant for my counsel in advising others to purseu the same route (which I will of course gladly offer). In this capacity, I eagerly pursue the forthcoming incarnation of our employer/employee relationship, and generously absolve myself of sole credit in the ushering of this new age of complete and utter stagnant majesty that is the medusa-beautiful profile of my unfulfilled professional promise.

Sincerely, your next employee of the decade,


Attempt 2: The Borrowed Epiphany

Dear Dr Shrinkazoid,

I fully and completely recognize your perspective in regard to my need to do a better job of realizing when I fail to maintain momentum — both professionally and personally — and recommit myself to continually pushing forward to propel my career, relationships, self-understanding, and life experiences to the next level.

I realize now that to stop making decisions is to stop living, and I do not want to live a life of treading water. Furthermore, you're absolutely right — if I do see myself avoiding, evading, delaying, or simply not engaging in decision-making behavior, I must use my "honesty lense" to identify these as not merely individual issues to be resolved, but as scattered symptoms of a larger, more fundamental stagnation to be addressed.

Lastly, I commit that to proclaim this to myself is to declare it to the world. I cannot simply speak these truths behind the protection of circumstances, but must challenge myself to assert them as personally universal imperatives, to be filed away akin good manners and proper grooming habits.

As you suggested, I will make it my daily practice to remind myself of these goals and surface them to the forefront of my everyday experience.

Sincerely, your most quickly improving patient student,


Attempt 3: The Non-Apology Apology

Dear Mom and Dad,

I'm sorry if you feel I've fallen short of your expectations. I know you believe in me, and want only for me to succeed, and I know it must be hard for you to witness my flailing from time to time. I want you to know that I am not unaware of my lack of direction, and really do want to turn things around. I also want you to know that it was never my plan to move back in with you, nor is it my intention to stay beyond what's necessary.

I'm thankful to have you as parents, and realize that my mere presence in this, my childhood home, could be perceived as both a direct failure on my part, and perhaps an indirect failure on yours. I hope you don't think about it this way, but I fully understand it as a genuine possibility. To that, all I can say is that I'm working on turning things around, and that I just need to "figure out how" to figure out how to do that. I recognize there are a certain number of outstanding decisions that for some reason or another I've not been able to make. This is something I hope to change soon.

In the meantime, please know that I am very grateful for your patience, compassion, and support as I try to navigate these standstill waters.

Sincerely, your soon-to-be-out-of-your-hair son,


So What Was The Point Of All This?

It's this: never stop moving forward. Be honest with yourself, and be explicit. Take explicit stock of your performance, past and present, and make sure to give equal weight on both your successes and failures. Navigate each new mountain with open eyes and a nimble constitution. Try, fail/succeed, repeat. And most of all, do the work yourself.

Never stop making decisions, and never stop looking towards what's next. If something challenging or overwhelming lands at your feet, break it down into smaller problems and make progress. If you don't know what to do, take stock of all available facts and make the call — even if that decision may be one you have to reevaluate in the future, potentially even overturn — make a decision. And stay curious. Keep asking questions. Perpetually wonder why. Challenge others for answers, and challenge yourself just the same. Take it upon yourself to always seek out more than what’s revealed upon first blush. The magic lurks in the layers.

Why? Because the human experience is just like a shark's respiration: in order to survive we need to keep moving forward. The moment we stop seeking out challenges and making new choices, the moment we focus too strongly on the past so as to cease all forward momentum, that's the moment we die. That's the moment we forsake what it is to be alive in this world.

So keep moving, and keep breathing, and keep reaching for that next great big thing. And when you're close enough, curl your fingers around it, lock your grip, and then pick your eyes up to scan for what's next.

Jonathan Kerrs is a product development consultant based in New York City. Aside from his penchant for internal process improvement and habitual optimism, he’s actually a pretty normal guy. Tell him how great he is.